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dc.contributor.advisorTrebilco, Paul
dc.contributor.advisorWilliams, Martin
dc.contributor.authordu Toit, Sean
dc.identifier.citationdu Toit, S. (2016). 1 Peter and Negotiating Life in the Graeco-Roman World (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy). University of Otago. Retrieved from
dc.description.abstractThere has been much debate concerning 1 Peter’s strategy and how this letter aims to help the Christians it addressed. By converting to Christianity these Christians were undermining the social cohesion of various relationships, perhaps most acutely those within the household. Their allegiance to God created tensions between those who were followers of Jesus and those who were not. The disruption of conventions and the dishonour caused by such devotion to someone who was crucified by imperial authorities is deemed dangerous and threatening by many outsiders. Therefore, these Christians were suffering social harassment that perhaps led to formal charges and punishment by various authorities. It is into this context of suffering social harassment that Peter writes his letter to these Christians to help them “stand firm in the grace of God” (5:12). To analyse how Peter interacts with wider aspects of Graeco-Roman culture, I have adapted John Barclay’s categories of acculturation, accommodation and assimilation. These tools provide a set of questions through which to approach 1 Peter and analyse the material in a helpful ways and with fruitful results. These tools do not provide a model into which the data of 1 Peter should be placed, thus avoiding the problem of manipulating data to fit with a pre-existing model. Thus I begin with an investigation into how 1 Peter has used non-material aspects of Graeco-Roman culture (acculturation). Firstly I explore Peter’s use of a Haustafel, a common topos and tool in Graeco-Roman moral philosophy. Next I note the use of rhetorical conventions and find that this author may have used some rhetorical conventions. Following this I provide an analysis of Peter’s use of Graeco-Roman ethical lists and two specific ethical concepts. This demonstrates that Peter has used various elements of Graeco-Roman culture to exhort and instruct his audiences. The next item, accommodation, asks why and how Peter has used acculturation in his discourse. Here I explore both positive and negative appraisals of aspects of Graeco-Roman culture and ideology. Those aspects that fit with their allegiance to Jesus are to be embraced and used as a means to foster concord amidst struggling relationships caused by being a Christian. Furthermore, this provides a means of ethical witness. Peter also provides a critique of aspects of Graeco-Roman ideology by noting that the emperor is a human creature, that a slave is not a worthless instrumentum vocale, and that wives should take as their models Israel’s holy women, and not women who act inappropriately. This leads to an investigation of how socially integrated these Christians were (assimilation). Given that the two primary examples of Christians in 1 Peter are slaves in pagan households, and wives married to pagans, I suggest that withdrawal from pagan interaction was practically impossible. Furthermore these marginalised Christians (slaves and wives) are exemplary paradigms for other Christians addressed by 1 Peter who are in vulnerable or marginal positions of society as Christians. They had to negotiate which aspects of Graeco-Roman life they could affirm and which aspects they had to reject. In the final chapters I examine Peter’s strategy. The emphasis in 1 Peter on “honourable conduct” and on “doing good” is noted and provides a particular and pertinent strategy for interacting with those who are currently harassing these Christians. Amidst a culture of reciprocity and revenge, Peter’s strategy creates problems for those who socially harass those who adopt Peter’s strategy. This is part of Peter’s larger plan to foster concord and ethical witness to outsiders. The letter of first Peter provides helpful and practical instruction for marginalised Christians facing social harassment. Peter’s strategy is to instruct his audiences to follow in what he perceives to be the example of Jesus by providing a counter-intuitive paradigm for these Christians to follow. Peter’s strategy has a few aims. Firstly, these Christians must remain holy amidst the pagan vice they are confronted with daily. Secondly, they must survive the temptation of apostasy or unfaithfulness. Thirdly, they must foster concord in the home and among relationships with outsiders as this will aid their ethical witness. In doing so they will demonstrate their reverence towards God, their honour towards all people and their commitment to one another as the people of God.
dc.publisherUniversity of Otago
dc.rightsAll items in OUR Archive are provided for private study and research purposes and are protected by copyright with all rights reserved unless otherwise indicated.
dc.subject1 Peter
dc.subjectGood Works
dc.subjectEarly Christian Ethics
dc.title1 Peter and Negotiating Life in the Graeco-Roman World
dc.language.rfc3066en of Philosophy of Otago
otago.openaccessAbstract Only
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